2005 New York City transit strike was a strike in New York City called by the Transport Workers Union Local
100 (TWU). Negotiations
for a new contract
with the Metropolitan
(MTA) broke down over retirement
increases. The strike began at 3:00 a.m.
December 20, 2005. Most New York City Transit
personnel observed the strike, effectively halting
all service on the subway
. Millions of
were affected. The strike
officially ended at 2:35 p.m. EST on December 22, 2005. Service was
restored overnight, with all transportation
systems fully operational by the
morning commute of the 23rd.
On Tuesday, December 27, 2005 the executive board of Local 100 of
the TWU accepted a 37 month contract offer from the MTA. The 37
month length was crucial as the last contract ended on December 15,
causing disruption of the New York City economy just in the middle
of the holiday season. Now the next contract would expire in mid
January. (However, to the shock of many commuters, the union
workers rejected the new contract by 7 votes – 11,234 to 11,227 –
in a vote on January 20, 2006, but overwhelmingly approved it three
months later, even though the offer had been legally
This was the third strike ever against New York City's Transit
Authority. The first was a 12-day walkout in 1966 which prompted the
creation of New
York's Taylor Law.
second was the 11-day 1980 strike
. The 2005
strike, which took place during the busiest shopping week of the
year, had significantly affected the local economy since many
people had then chosen to avoid shopping in New York by either
shopping online, or by postponing purchases.
On April 10, 2006, Judge Theodore
sentenced Local 100 President Roger Toussaint
to ten days in jail 
and a week later, the union was fined
2.5 million dollars and suspension of automatic due deductions to
all members. 
Local 100 of the Transport
(TWU), Local 726 (Staten Island) and Local 1056
(Queens) of the Amalgamated
walked off the job around 3:00 a.m. EST on
Tuesday, December 20, 2005, after contract talks broke down during
the night, and union negotiators left the bargaining table. TWU
members returned to work after an apparent breakthrough in
negotiations on December 22, 2005 at 2:35 p.m. EST.
The strike was illegal under the provisions of an addition to New
York State Civil Service Law called the Public Employees Fair
Employment Act, more commonly called the Taylor Law
, which has been in effect since
September 1, 1967. It was passed largely in response to the
. It prohibits municipal workers from striking and
provides alternative means for dispute resolution
. The law provides for
criminal penalties including imprisonment
of union officials, and fine
against the union and individual
striking workers. On December 20, state Supreme Court
Jones ruled that the Transport Workers Union was in contempt of two court injunctions
ordering it not to strike and imposing a US$
million per day fine against the union.
The International TWU issued a statement demanding that Local 100
TWU members return to work immediately, in light of the court
injunction and the illegality of the strike. This statement would
legally remove culpability from the International TWU in regards to
fines levied by the courts. Additionally, International TWU leaders
stated publicly that they believed that the strike should not have
taken place as they believed that the talks were progressing, and
that the last offer made by the MTA was fair and a show of
willingness to compromise.
No formal negotiations were held from the stoppage of talks on the
night of December 19, 2005 until December 21, 2005, although
various news articles have cited anonymous sources that informal
talks were continuing. During this period of time, both sides went
to court to argue their cases. The MTA suggested binding arbitration
as a possible
solution, but that possibility was rejected by the local union
representatives. Such a resolution could have been imposed if the
state's Public Employment Relations Board had declared a formal
between the union and the MTA.
At 1:00 a.m. EST on December 22, 2005, the TWU leadership and the
MTA were both present in the Grand Hyatt
hotel in Manhattan, talking individually with the state mediation
panel. At this time, it is unclear whether the TWU and MTA
conversed face-to-face. However, the TWU and MTA agreed to resume
contract talks and the TWU agreed to direct its membership to
return to work. Both parties agreed to a press blackout
during contract talks.
The previous contract between MTA and its workers expired at 12:01
a.m. EST (05:01 UTC) December 16, 2005. The MTA and the Transport Workers Union
, led by
, were negotiating to
settle a new contract. As they were unable to reach an agreement,
the TWU extended the deadline to December 20, 2005, but since the
12:01 a.m. EST (05:01 UTC) December 20, 2005 deadline was not met,
the union decided to strike.
A "limited strike" began on two private bus lines, (Jamaica Buses Incorporated
), on Monday, December 19, 2005, when their 750
drivers walked off the job. Private carriers were chosen for this
"limited strike" because they are not covered under New York state
law. However, when these private lines were integrated into MTA Bus
on January 9, 2006, their workers became public employees subject
to the Taylor Law. It was unclear at the time whether negotiations
with the MTA would cover these employees.
Full strikes on subways and buses began on Tuesday, December 20,
2005. The strike was announced by the union and took effect at 3:00
a.m. EST (08:00 UTC) December 20. At the time Roger Toussaint
declared: "The Local 100 Executive Board has voted overwhelmingly
to extend strike action to all MTA properties effective
immediately." After the announcement, it took approximately 1.5
hours for trains to finish their runs and return to the storage
days leading up to the transit strikes, critics and supporters
alike contended that any labor action would affect mainly low-income minorities,
and the limited strike indeed turned out to be a real hardship for
The local union's official reason for the strike
was the transit workers' grievances over the hardships that were
increasingly being placed on them by the MTA, specifically the
issue of pensions. Among other things, the MTA called for the
retirement age to be increased seven years (from 55 to 62) and for
the amounts received at retirement to be reduced dramatically
through the creation of a new "tier" (Tier V) of workers. Most
importantly, the MTA had insisted on requiring negotiation of
pensions as a condition of negotiating of a new contract although
the Taylor Law prohibits this. The MTA had agreed to keep the
retirement age at 55 before the strike. MTA workers are
compensated extremely well compared to salaries for the same jobs
at PATH and other public transportation agencies.
For example, an average MTA bus operator makes $63,000 per year and
is able to retire at 55.
Demands and counteroffers
The TWU demanded that all members of the union receive a 6%
increase per year for each of the 3
years of the contract, plus more expensive accommodations for
, and more money to
spend on station maintenance. The MTA offered a 3% raise the first
year, a 4% raise the second year, and a 3.5% raise the third year.
The striking workers reportedly earn an average of about US$48,000
The TWU also wanted to lower the age of retirement
(at which point
the employee is eligible for a full pension
from 55 to 50. The MTA had wanted to raise the retirement age for
newer workers from 55 to 62, but dropped this demand in exchange
for pension contributions from new workers of 6% of gross salary
per year for the first 10 years of employment. Under the previous
contract, workers contribute 2% to their pension plan. 
The pension benefit is not insignificant because it is estimated to
cost 25% of salary over the entire 25 year period to fund a pension
benefit of half the salary at age 55 for someone who starts
employment at age 30. While this estimate is based on a 5% interest
rate for discounting present values, a 3.5% annual salary growth
rate and mortality according to the Annuity 2000 Merged Gender Mod
1 Table with ages set back 2.0 years. The key point to use the same
assumptions to compare the annual yearly cost as a percent of
salary for a half pay pension for someone starting at age 30 and
retiring at age 62. The additional 7 year wait would drive the cost
down to under 17% of salary annual cost. In essence, the MTA's
proposal was a greater than 8% salary cut across the board. using a
slightly worse mortality table, the effective salary cut is still
within the 7% to 6% salary cut range in terms of value given up. By
not accepting the MTA pension offer, Local 100 of the TWU was not
forced to a cut.
Citing the rising cost of health care
the MTA wanted new employees to contribute 1% of their salary to
pay for health insurance
workers currently pay nothing for health insurance.
TWU workers also raised complaints about working conditions,
including hazards such as smoke, dangerous chemicals and extreme
temperatures, abuse from supervisors, verbal or physical threat
from passengers, and inability to access restroom facilities on the
bus and subway. 
In the eleventh hour, the MTA offered a 3.5% per year raise and no
change in the retirement age, with the caveat that new transit
workers pay 6% of their wages into the pension fund, up from the 2%
that current workers pay. The offer was rejected, and a strike
Combined, the pension and health care reforms the MTA sought would
cost about US$30 million over the span of the three-year contract.
Critics lambasted both the MTA and TWU for allowing a strike to
occur over such a relatively small sum. However, the pension costs
would balloon to US$160 million in the first 10 years, and US$80
million per year after 20 years. The MTA said that its reluctance
to give in to the TWU on this point stems from fear of future
deficits (projected to be 1 billion USD by 2009), although critics
contend that its assertion of deficits in early 2005 was fabricated
to justify fare hikes. The MTA recently reported a $1 billion
surplus, though some future capital projects have not been included
in that number.
Average MTA Salaries
|Average MTA Salaries 
|Bus or Subway Operator
|Average MTA Worker
NYC Transit workers are, on average, higher-paid than other New
York transportation workers. Salary figures for skilled labor (e.g.
within the Authority are comparable to those listed above.
to the Bureau of Labor
Statistics, the mean annual income for all "Transportation and
Material Moving Occupations" in New York City is US$36,310 and the mean annual income in New York City is US$49,670.
The city estimated that it stood to lose US$400 million on Tuesday
— the first day of the strike — and US$300 million each on
Wednesday and Thursday.  Emergency services
response time may have
been slowed significantly due to increased traffic congestion,
possibly creating a danger to life. Retailers
may have lost a tremendous amount of
business in the middle of their busiest season. Public Schools were
using a delayed schedule. Some private high schools closed
completely for the week, while other schools such as St. John's had
an ineffective contingency plan. 
The same day that the strike started, State Justice Theodore Jones
warned the transit union that there would be a US$1 million fine
for every day that the Transit Authority is shut down. In addition,
for each day the workers missed during the strike, they would be
fined two days' pay (their regular wages for the day plus a one day
penalty). Justice Jones had also considered imposing an additional
US$1,000 per day of fines on the union leaders, as well as the
possibility of jail
time for union leaders.
Legal representatives for the city presented arguments before State
Supreme Court Justice Theodore Jones requesting individual
penalties of US$25,000 per day, per public transit worker striking.
And an additional US$22 million per day for economic damages as
estimated by the mayor
resultant to lost tax
revenue and overtime required for increased law enforcement. There
were between 32,000 and 34,000 strikers.
Before the strike, bus drivers were instructed to finish their
route and bring their buses to the depot, while subway trains
finished their route, and brought their trains back to the
In anticipation of exceptional traffic
volumes, an emergency traffic
plan was put into effect shortly after the strike officially began.
Weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. EST, Manhattan south of 96th street, as well as all MTA tunnels and bridges, were subject to HOV4 restrictions; that is, vehicles
must contain a minimum of four passengers, and commercial trucks and vans are
To increase car capacities, carpool
staging areas were set up. Alternate side of
the street parking rules had been suspended.
were permitted to pick up multiple
fares, and operated on a zone system rather than metered fare.
Manhattan was divided into four zones, with one zone for each of
the other four boroughs. The base fare, for travel within one zone,
was limited to US$10 a person (although few cabbies charged less)
charged in advance instead of at the end of the ride, plus an
additional $5 per person for each additional zone. There were,
however, reports of much higher prices than normal demanded by taxi
drivers, some charging over $50 per person. One report indicates a
driver was attempting to charge $250 per person for a ride from
John F. Kennedy
Airport in Queens,
NY to Midtown
However, this was not the norm, and most taxi
drivers provided their services within the guidelines.
Public schools started two hours later than usual, with school bus
pickup times also two hours later than
normal. Major universities
extended shuttle service to students, faculty and staff. Many
students were in the middle of taking final
were extended on a day-for-day basis for the duration of the
strike. Passengers on the Long
Island Rail Road
and Metro-North Railroad
were charged a
strike fare of US$4.00 for intracity travel.
addition Metro North Commuter Railroad had a special East Bronx
shuttle (making all Harlem Line stops from Mount Vernon
West to Grand Central Terminal, but bypassing Tremont and Melrose) by December 21.
Regular peak trains did not
stop in the Bronx. There were similar plans on the Hudson Line, and in addition there
was a special park and ride lot near Yankee
Stadium, and at Shea Stadium in Queens. The New Haven
Line ran normally, stopping at Fordham only in the Bronx, as usual.
Train ran extra service between 33rd
St and the World Trade
Center from 6 AM to 8 PM during the days of the
were being encouraged by the city to walk or
bike to work; many bridges were open to pedestrian traffic, including
Bridge, and George Washington Bridge for commuters from New Jersey.
On the third day of the strike, a
firefighter was critically injured while biking to work, when he
collided with a privately operated bus. The mayor addressed this in
a press conference later on in the day.
commuters used the New York Water
Taxi service from NY Waterway as an
alternative to get to Manhattan from the Brooklyn Army Terminal, Hunts
Amboy, and Jersey
Many commuters simply stayed home from
The HOV car restrictions changed much of the commuting schedules of
thousands of motorists.For example, at 4:00AM each day, the
saw up to an hour
delay inbound, and also after 11AM when the restrictions were
lifted. Traffic however was remarkably light in most sections of
the city once the HOV ban was lifted for the day.
The Fox News Channel
own buses during the strike along several major routes, giving
riders a free trip while the station broadcasted live from the
While buses under the New York City Transit banner were
non-operational, some MTA Bus
services—such as the Command Bus Company
-- were running.
These included some express buses between Brooklyn and Manhattan.
According to a NY1 News poll
, 41% of New Yorkers thought both the
MTA and the Transport Workers Union were to blame for the strike.
About 27% solely faulted the MTA, while 25% blamed the union for
the walkout. 54% of New Yorkers thought what the union wanted was
fair compared to 36% who did not. But race
was also shown to
play into this result: 38% of white
Yorkers thought the TWU's demands were fair, while nearly
three-quarters of both African-Americans
agreed with the TWU's proposals. Three times
as many white New Yorkers said the union is more to blame for the
strike than did African-American New Yorkers.
As for Mayor Michael Bloomberg
handling of the crisis, 51% said he did "not so good" or "poor,"
while 45% said he did "great" or "good," Governor George E. Pataki
attracted more blame, with 69%
saying his performance was "not good" or "poor," and just 23%
saying he did "great" or "good."
One day before the strike, an AM New
showed that, when given
the choice, 68% of respondents favored the MTA while only 32%
favored the local TWU in negotiations.
At a news conference
the morning of
December 22, 2005, it was announced that the state mediator,
Richard Curreri, had reached a preliminary agreement between the
MTA and a TWU team including Roger Toussaint for transit workers to
return to work for a time without a contract. Progress had also
been made on the pensions issue. At 2:35 p.m. EST, December 22, the
agreement was approved by the executive board of the TWU local (36
yes, 5 no and 2 abstentions). Agreements were made on the ability
to use restroom facilities by workers during shifts. Workers began
to restore services. Buses and subways were restored at midnight
, while signals, switches, stations, and
other things were checked out. The MTA says that service was
incrementally added during the later morning rush hour
. By late morning service was running on
a normal weekday schedule.
At a news conference on the evening of December 27, 2005, Roger Toussaint
announced an agreement with
the MTA calling for no change in the pension (very costly to the
MTA and very valuable to workers), 3%, 4%, and 3.5% annual salary
increases for the next three years respectively plus a 1.5% of
salary cost to workers to help defray health care costs.
addition, they got Martin
Luther King, Jr. Day as a paid holiday — viewed to be very
important, as the workforce is now mainly black, Caribbean, African-American, Asian, or Hispanic.
the union won a refund of some prior employee pension
On January 2, 2006, several TWU Local 100 representatives gathered
up in Union Square and held a press conference, threatening to go
on strike again if the MTA does not stop "keeping secrets." Roger
Toussaint however, disagrees with the representatives and claims
"the contract is fair enough."
On January 5, 2006, MTA official Peter Kalikow conceded that making
the pension cutback demand was an error. 
On January 20, 2006 it was announced that the contract was rejected
by 7 votes out of approximately 22,000 cast. 
On January 31, 2006 Local 100's executive board met to decide on
its response to both the MTA latest offer and the rank and file
On March 15, 2006, Toussaint announced that he wanted a revote on
the rejected contract and two days later, there was a vote of 24-12
in favor of a revote and on April 18, Toussaint announced that the
union has approved it by a vote of 14,716 to 5,877. The MTA,
however, has said the contract is no longer on the table and sought
negotiation, which the arbitrator did on December 15 when the board
imposed a new three-year contract that both the MTA and TWU Local
100 must accept.
Beginning in June 2006, the Taylor law penalties were deducted from
striking workers' checks. Withholding of the Union checkoff was
withheld until early 2007. The TWU agree to pay over $300,000 a
month towards strike-related penalties.
- Buses, subways on the move again in New York: Buses,
subways on the move again in New York. CNN. December 23, 2005. Retrieved September 12,
- Complete Coverage of the NYC Transit
Strike NYC Indymedia. December
20, 2005. Retrieved September 12, 2006.
collection of articles on the New York Transit strike
- Downs, Steve. What Happened - and Didn't: Behind New York's
Transit Strike. September/October edition of Against the Current, publication of
Solidarity . Retrieved September 12,
- Williams, Timothy and Sewell Chan. State Mediators' Plan Clears Way to Resolve
60-Hour Ordeal. New York
Times. December 22, 2005.
- Powers, Nicholas. The Terrorist Worker